HOOVER, Ala. — Tennessee football coach Butch Jones will step behind the podium Monday for his fifth SEC Media Days appearance looking to put his program into perspective.
The hundreds of media on hand, in turn, will be lined up ready to fire questions Jones’ way, ranging from Xs and Os to “Champions of Life” references.
There’s no telling how Jones will react. He has proven to be a coach who often wears his emotions on his sleeve and is not afraid to break from the pack and take a different viewpoint on things.
Jones also has been guilty of what some might consider “coach speak,” but the fact is that Tennessee’s coach buys into the theories he often spews and is all in on the Vols’ slogans and acronyms.
Indeed, “DAT” (Details, Accountability, Toughness) is not an act.
Here are five questions that Jones figures to be asked, what his likely answers would be, and what the real skinny is.
1. Who is your starting quarterback?
Jones’ likely answer: There isn’t one yet, and the race might not be settled until after the season starts.
The skinny: Someone has to take the first snaps on Sept. 4 vs. Georgia Tech, and junior Quinten Dormady has game experience. It would be shocking if it’s not Dormady, but it also would be a mild upset if redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano doesn’t get some action, too.
2. Update on the 20 players who missed Orange and White Game with injuries?
Jones’ likely answer: Everyone is working out and is on pace to be ready for the start of fall camp. Defensive tackle Shy Tuttle is doing everything he can to be ready and we’re optimistic he’ll be back.
The skinny: Everyone is working out, but not everyone is 100 percent and players like Tuttle and defensive end Kyle Phillips have had injury-plagued careers and are questionable at best for the opener. There’s likely a handful of other injuries that UT isn’t disclosing so as not to put itself at a competitive disadvantage.
3. Biggest difference on your staff after the coaching changes?
Jones’ likely answer: Larry Scott is doing some different things with formations and Walt Wells and Brady Hoke are doing a great job coaching linemen on offense and defense. Rock Gullickson has been a pivotal hire.
The skinny: Gullickson really has been a pivotal hire as the strength and conditioning coach, and while Scott will add some wrinkles, this offense still will have some of Jones’ signature traits, such as an ability to change tempo and use formations to confuse opponents. Wells and Hoke are legit, but so are new defensive backs coach Charlton Warren and wide receivers coach Kevin Beard, both of whom relate much better to the players in their position groups than their predecessors.
4. Do you regret the “Champions of Life” comment last year, the way it got twisted?
Jones’ likely answer: No, because those players represent everything we believe in at Tennessee and sometimes people lose sight of the fact that these are student-athletes.
The skinny: Jones might sound overly idealistic at times, but it’s who he is, and his bosses and the parents of players appreciate how he protects his players in the public forum.
5. How will the new AD hire (John Currie) and Phillip Fulmer being added as an advisor affect you?
Jones’ likely answer: I’ve gotten to know John Currie very well and like him, and Coach Fulmer has been someone I’ve turned to for advice since I’ve been hired.
The skinny: Currie and Jones truly do have a very good relationship, having visited above and beyond what would be deemed necessary. Fulmer has been Jones’ ally for quite some time, helping to interpret the negativity and demanding nature of many in the UT fan base while supporting Jones publicly.